This article originally appeared in the November 2009 edition of Roundabout, Great Ormond Street Hospital's monthly in-house magazine. We are most grateful to the author Nicholas Baldwin; the current editor of the magazine, Sally Mavin; and The Museum & Archives Service, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, for allowing us to reproduce it here. The illustrations are from our own account of the hospital, and the captions have been added. Click on the images for larger pictures. — JB

Sir Charles Barry (1799-1860) was one of the major architects of the Victorian era, and principally famous for designing the Houses of Parliament. He had five sons, four of whom had an involvement with the Hospital for Sick Children.

The rather picturesque hospital building designed by E. M. Barry, since demolished

The Hospital was able to commission its first purpose-built building in 1872 (the original Hospital, opened in 1852, being in a converted townhouse), and Sir Charles’ third son Edward Middleton Barry was appointed as architect. Edward Barry, born in 1830, had already made his name rebuilding the Royal Opera House and the market halls [Floral Hall] at Covent Garden. His designs were in a loosely Flemish style for the new block, with its four wards named after Queen Victoria’s daughters, sophisticated Roman villa-style under-floor heating system, and separate operating theatres for the first time. His somewhat idealised watercolour painting of the new clinical block now hangs in the Paul O’Gorman building. A distinctive feature of the building, (and the only surviving part of it), was its elaborate Chapel in Venetian Gothic style. This was endowed by the architect’s cousin William Henry Barry, in memory of his late wife Caroline Pitman. It cost, at £60,000, as much as the whole of the rest of the building — an indication of Victorian priorities. The Chapel’s Consecration Service, on 18 November 1875, was conducted by Sir Charles Barry’s second son, Canon Alfred Barry. Alfred was Provost of Cheltenham College and King’s College London, later becoming the first Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and Primate of Australia. In later life he returned to London as Rector of St. James’ Piccadilly, also being a distinguished theologian. He observed in his sermon at the Consecration service that “The common life of this place, even more truly than at other hospitals, is the life of one great family.”

Charles Barry Jnr's "South Wing" of Great Ormond Street, its frontage preserved despite further rebuilding.

Edward Barry died aged only 50, collapsing after giving an after-dinner speech at the Royal Society in 1880. His eldest brother, Charles Barry junior, took over the Hospital’s building programme. Like his father and brother, he was a distinguished architect, with notable buildings in London including Dulwich College School, the extension of Burlington House in Piccadilly for the Royal Academy, and the huge Great Eastern Hotel fronting Liverpool Street station. At Great Ormond Street, he designed the new ‘South Wing’ (today’s Paul O’Gorman Building) which replaced the original Hospital’s converted houses in 1893, and also completed outline plans for the new Astor Out-Patient Wing before his death in 1900.

E. M. Barry's richly decorated chapel, as it was originally — and is now, after its meticulous late 20c. restoration.

Sir Charles Barry’s youngest son, John Wolfe Barry, was one of the leading Civil Engineers of his era. He was the pupil, and later partner, of another great Victorian engineer, Sir John Hawkshaw. [Beween them,] Barry and Hawkshaw designed and built Tower Bridge, and the railway bridges and stations at Charing Cross, Blackfriars and Cannon Street for the Southern Railway. John Wolfe Barry was on the Hospital’s Board of Management at Great Ormond Street from 1895-1900, and was followed from 1905 by his son Kenneth Wolfe Barry, the Vice-President of the [Institution] of Civil Engineers. On Kenneth’s retirement from the Board in 1921, the family’s 50 year connection with Great Ormond Street came to an end, although William Barry’s Chapel endowment continued to pay a stipend to the clergy of St. George the Martyr in Queen Square to perform services at the Hospital until the 1950s, when the Hospital began appointing its own in-house Chaplains.

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Last modified 14 May 2017